The role of brands in Austerity

Unilever

You don’t have to look far to find articles, speeches and campaigns that focus on giving brands a purpose, be it on a service, people or environmental level.

There’s no doubt that this has been partly brought on by the recession, with consumers and employees expecting more from the brands in their lives, whilst many brands seek to compete for consumer attention in more innovative ways than just price wars.

As Britain heads to the polls tomorrow, recent research from J. Walter Thompson into the effect of Austerity on the British public suggests that this appetite for help from brands will become a long-term consumer expectation, even when the economy fully recovers.

Consumers believe that Austerity provides an opportunity for companies to help, of course offering good old-fashioned discounts and offers will never go out of style, and consequently supermarkets are perceived as being by far the most helpful when it comes to making people’s lives better. However the latest financial reports from Tesco, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s suggest simply driving down costs isn’t sustainable.

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Consumers are after more than just discounts

Equally, more and more consumers are showing they expect brands to help shoulder some of the burden the nation faces, perhaps removing some of that expectation from a government suffering from a serious lack of trust.

The report suggests that consumers are becoming more and more socially conscious, with 72% saying offering paid apprenticeships/ training to help those out of work would be an effective means of being useful, equally the number of consumers wanting to see brands prioritising British suppliers and partners rose to 65%.

The same can be said about voters, with JWT conducting research into Brits in their 50s and 60s who claimed that policies that deliver benefits to others, or to society as a whole would resonate strongly with them. Apparently suggesting that it’ll take more than a slew of personal benefits to win their vote.

Acting in a more socially conscious way will ultimately build greater trust between brands and consumers. For example, whilst consumers said supermarkets were doing the most to help them out of all sectors, in a recent study by Delphi Group, the Market Research Society think tank, supermarkets actually garnered the worst net trust scores, due to their perceived inability to keep personal information private.

As the dust begins to settle after the General Election and the UK’s focus moves beyond the 7th May, the battle for supremacy amongst the UK’s businesses may well come down to striking the right balance between short term benefits to drive repeat visits and long term loyalty that can survive another economic crisis.

Download the full report here – http://www.austerityindex.com/

Henry Riggall is European Account Director – New Business at J. Walter Thompson London